When is the developing brain most vulnerable to anesthetics?

"The greatest vulnerability of the developing brain to anesthetics occurs at the time of rapid synaptogenesis or so-called brain growth spurt period. In rodents, this critical period lasts from approximately postnatal day 0 to 10. For rhesus monkeys, this period takes place after approximately 115 days of gestation and up to postnatal day 60. In humans, it starts from the third trimester and continues two to three years after birth. However, it is unclear whether anesthetic-induced neuronal death is the direct cause of long-term neurocognitive dysfunction. Many developmental events (e.g., neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neuron structure remodeling) occur within this period.

Multiple sequential steps are involved in neurogenesis including neural stem cell (NSC) proliferation and the differentiation of NSCs into neurons. Thus, neuronal cell death may not be the only consequence caused by general anesthetics. Anesthetics may perturbate neural development by influencing NSC proliferation, neurogenesis, synaptogenesis and neuronal survival." (Xiaowen Bai, MD, PhD, et al., "Ketamine Enhances Human Neural Stem Cell Proliferation and Induces Neuronal Apoptosis via Reactive Oxygen Species-Mediated Mitochondrial Pathway," Anesthesia & Analgesia, April 2013, pp. 869-880.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.